The Supreme Court takes its decrees seriously, and it has not let that be lost on former law minister Babar Awan. Awan had criticised the judiciary in his December 1 press conference for accepting former premier Nawaz Sharif’s Memogate petition.
The apex court sought footage of the controversial conference on Monday from the Press Information Department with regards to the contempt case against the former law minister.
A two-member special bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ijaz Afzal, heard the contempt case against Awan.
Awan, on his part, argued in his written reply that the conference was a spontaneous reaction and it happened in a charged atmosphere. He added that he had not rendered any prepared or written speech to the media. Therefore, said Awan, his statements should be taken in their proper context as his actions were not ‘deliberate’.
The footage of the press conference is to be aired in the proceedings on March 1, when the court will resume the hearing of the case.
In his written reply submitted before the court through his lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar, Awan was keen to emphasise that he had no intention of criticising the judiciary.
Taking an uncharacteristically apologetic tone, Awan said that if his remarks had hurt the court, then he was regretful about it. He also said that his criticism about the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto case (where a presidential reference sought reopening it) was not meant for the present judicial setup.
“The entire speech (at the conference) was a political debate, which took place in the context of a history of antagonisms between the two political parties of PPP and PML-N,” Zafar read out from Awan’s reply. Zafar added that freedom of speech cannot be compromised in the name of freedom for judiciary.
Responding to that line of argument, Justice Ather Saeed criticised Awan’s remarks about a sitting judge of the apex court, adding that the court was always willing to accept positive criticisms about its rulings but it was unfair to ridicule the judiciary on immaterial grounds.
“I still remember the other 25 lawyers, who accompanied Babar Awan and made a mockery of the judiciary”, he added austerely. Earlier, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had suspended Awan’s license on grounds of insulting the judiciary.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2012.
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